Tiling a Wall

Ready to tile a wall? Luckily, it's not as difficult as you think.And the end result looks amazing! Tiling a wall creates texture and interest. You do not have to tile an entire wall, just a portion looks great! Follow these steps below to learn how to add tile to your wall!

Also: youtube is your friend!  There are tons of great videos that will walk you through the process of how to add tile to a wall!

Gravity tends to pull tiles down the wall during installation, so you'll need to take a few precautions to keep your hard work in place. Organic mastic is one solution; tile sticks to it almost immediately. Mastic is not as strong as thinset mortar, however, and not as water-resistant. If you want to use thinset, keep tile in place with spacers, nails, or tape.

If you are tiling a wall and a floor, tile the floor first so you can continue the grout joints up the wall in the same pattern as the floor. Install a cove base, then start wall tile above the cove base. If you are tiling adjacent walls, set the back wall first. Tapered edges on a side wall are less visible.

The duration of your tiling project is related to the size of the wall you're tiling. Plan to set aside about 30 to 45 minutes per square yard to prepare and set tile. Before you begin, repair any structural defects in the space. And make sure you're comfortable with the skills needed for this DIY: reading a level, troweling, laying tile, and grouting.

What You Need

  • Wide putty knife

  • 4-foot level

  • Sanding block

  • Small sledge and cold chisel

  • Stud finder

  • Tape measure

  • Chalk line

  • Utility knife

  • Carbide scriber

  • Margin and notched trowels

  • Straightedge

  • Cordless drill

  • Grout knife

  • Snap cutter or wet saw

  • Tile nippers

  • Masonry stone

  • Caulk gun and caulk

  • Hammer

  • Grout float

  • Deglossing and release agents

  • Bucket

  • Thinset mortar

  • Dimensional lumber for battens

  • Backerboard

  • Screws

  • Tape

  • Tile

  • Spacers

  • Grout

  • Rags

  • Sponge

  • Tile base or bullnose

  • Nylon wedges

  • Finishing nails


Step 1

Remove any wallcovering and degloss paint. If removing wallpaper, sand or use a wet sponge to clean off the residue of glue and paper. Make sure the surface dries completely before setting tile on it.


Step 2

Using a 4-foot level, examine the wall in sections, marking high spots, depressions, and other defects that would interfere with the tile. Pay close attention to corners to check for plumb. Using care in your survey of the wall at this stage will save time later.


Step 3

Skim coat a layer of thinset on any walls that are out of plumb and fill depressions. If installing backerboard, mark stud centers on the ceiling. Cut and fasten backerboard, centering its edges on the studs. Position the backerboard pieces to minimize cutting and waste.


Step 4

Set a 4-foot level vertically on the wall about 2 feet from a corner, over a grout joint. If the wall meets at an outside corner, set the level where the inside edge of a bullnose will fall. Pencil a line down the level, extend it to the floor and ceiling. Repeat the process on the horizontal plane.


Step 5

Measure up from the horizontal line a distance equal to the size of your tile and mark the wall at this point. Continue marking the wall in the same increments. Using a 4-foot level, mark the wall across from these points and snap layout grids so you can keep each horizontal course straight.


Step 6

Mix enough adhesive to cover the size of a section you can lay within its working time (the amount of time it takes for the thinset mortar to set up and become unworkable). Work from the bottom up, spreading the adhesive evenly and combing it with the notched edge of the trowel. Start at the bottom, and using a batten, press the tile into the mortar with a slight twist.

Step 7

Continue laying the pattern of your choice, using spacers if your tile is not lugged. Note the placement and position of the spacers. Setting the spacers flush with the surface of the tile will make them difficult to remove. Inserting them in the manner shown above makes removal an easy task. When the field tile is set, cut and install the edge tiles.

Editor's Tip: If you're not using a coved base and your layout results in cut tiles at the floor, tack a level 1x or 2x batten along the plane on which your first full tiles will be laid. The batten will keep the rows in place and prevent the tiles from sliding down the wall. Even with a coved base or a batten and spacers, you may have to take precautions to keep the tile on the wall while the adhesive cures. Drive nails partway into the wall at least every third of each tile's length and tape the tiles with masking tape. If your layout calls for a coved tile base, install it first, leveling it with nylon wedges. Then tile up the wall.


Step 8

When the adhesive has cured to the manufacturer's specifications, inspect the joints for excess adhesive. Use a utility knife or grout knife to remove any adhesive in the joints and clean any excess off the tile surface. Mix enough grout to cover a section and force it into the joints with a grout float, keeping the float at a 45-degree angle. Work the float in both directions to fill the joints; work diagonally to remove excess grout.


Step 9

When the grout has cured enough that a damp sponge won't pull it out of the joints, scrape off the excess with the float held almost perpendicular to the surface. Clean the surface and smooth the joints with a damp sponge, then repeat the cleaning with clean water and a clean sponge. When a haze forms, wipe it with a clean rag. You may have to wipe with some pressure to remove the haze.